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Excellent Service Means Managing Customers’ Expectations

Google the phrase “managing expectations” and you’ll get 66 million hits. A search for the refinement “customer expectations” brings back 54 million hits. With so much information available, and so much interest, it’s amazing that customer expectations go unmanaged so frequently! And yet they do.

An example: Our IT supplier moved us from one email server to another after they selected a new, “better” provider. Of course we went along for the ride.

These tech folks are good people and they give good service; overall, it’s a good relationship. But it’s interesting and often perplexing to see how much better the service experience could be if we’d had just a little more preparation — just a little more management of our expectations.

What’s Junky Performance?

On the old server, our spam email went into “Junk” if it was totally innocuous and into a separate quarantine account if it appeared to fit certain risky criteria. I received a daily email, prompting me to review the messages that had been quarantined.

Checking the quarantine required an additional step, complete with a username and password, but something about it was very reassuring. It felt like nothing bad could get into my computer, and the formatting of the quarantined emails was visually straightforward and easy to scan, which made for an excellent daily “tech hygiene” experience.

Unfortunately, however, there was no effective way to “whitelist” any good email that the filter designated as “bad,” so there were a few senders that I had to remember to look for each day and manually move to my inbox. I got used to it after a while, but it was still annoying and inefficient and I can see how it could easily drive other people crazy.

Migration Without a Road Map

A couple of days after switching to the new server, I realized that I hadn’t been receiving those reassuring quarantine email reports anymore. That’s when I discovered that hundreds of emails were going straight into my junk email folder each day.

After verifying that these emails were the same ones that used to go into quarantine, I found I had a wonderful new capability: I could whitelist the approved senders and make the designation stick. Big improvement! On the other hand, the process of scanning the “no-goodnik” emails was more difficult than before: something about the formatting and appearance made it more likely that I could miss messages that I wanted to keep.

On the whole, when I consider how I feel about the new server vs. the old one, it’s six of one, half a dozen of the other. I waste a few more seconds checking the junk folder several times each day and it takes longer to screen what’s in there, but the ongoing manual re-categorizing has ended.

Preparation Determines Expectations

All in all, the switch has been no big deal. But it would have been so much simpler if the IT folks had prepared me for the changes. That would have made the entire experience feel less risky and more beneficial. Here’s what I wish they had said to me:

Liz, when we switch to the new server, the process of managing your spam will change. Instead of the daily quarantine email report you’ve been getting, where you have to go to the Web to check it, the spam will go right to your junk folder, so you’ll be able to check it directly from your email account — even on your phone! Best of all, you’ll be able to whitelist senders in a way that will stick.

Prepping me would have taken the IT people an extra 30 seconds — and possibly an extra 10 minutes of thinking through the prep process for all of their customers. But it would have given me a specific reason to look forward to the change instead of having a couple of days of perplexity adjusting to it.

You’ll give some more thought to handling this kind of thing for your customers, won’t you?

Onward and upward,


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